Cynsational News

Flyaway Books

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Gayleen Rabukukk, Stephani Eaton, Suma Subramaniam and Gail Vannelli for Cynsations

Author/Illustrator Insights

PW KidsCast: A Conversation With Michael W. Waters conducted by Emma Kantor from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “I might not change the world, but I hope these words spark the minds of young people in such a way that they know that they can. And that they courageously go forward to do just that…and…commit themselves to contribute—in their own time—to make the world a better place.”

Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker (Vampires Never Get Old) in Conversation from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Zoraida Córdova:] “[V]ampirism has been this thing that is foisted upon an unsuspecting victim…By giving our characters, especially our teens, the choice over their future, it feels like taking back the night….[W]e highlight how powerful it is to decide your own future, even if it is an undead one.”

“Why I Love Kids’ Books in Translation” by Rivka Galchen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “…the books that seemed the most dense with news from distant lands were the ones that came from other countries—the ones that, like my father’s bedtime stories, were arriving to me in translation.”

Author Interview: Magic, Writing & Durians; A Conversation With Christina Soontornvat…. by Skye from The Quiet Pond. Peek: “I think if you are writing books for kids, you are probably already a hopeful person who believes that children will grow up to make the future brighter for us all. We just need to give them the stories that will help them get there.”

Viking Books for Young Readers

Q&A With Arvin Ahmadi, How It All Blew Up by Alaina Leary from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “Writing books is just as much about grit as it is about talent and creativity because it’s hard. There will be moments you want to shut the Word document and never open it again. I think writing through the hard parts while also being kind to yourself, that’s how you do it.”

Equity & Inclusion

Q&A With Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore, Miss Meteor by Alaina Leary from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: [Tehlor Kay Mejia:] “I wish more people would ask who the story is for. I always want to scream Queer Latinx Readers! Because…while of course, we hope our books will resonate with a wide audience, this book, in particular, is…[a] love letter to the younger versions of ourselves and all the queer Latinx readers we love.”

Crown Books for Young Readers

Cheryl and Wade Hudson, Editors of The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth, Share Why We Need to Have “The Talk” from Random House Teachers & Librarians. Peek: “The language of our national discourse is constantly changing. What do our children know about systemic racism? Injustice? Fairness? Equality? White privilege? Diversity and inclusion? While they might not have the jargon readily at hand to express their observations and experiences, those situations and feelings do exist.”

Lisa Moore Ramee A Good Kind of Trouble from YouTube. Peek: “All the books when I was a kid only had white characters….I wanted to make sure that when [my daughter] read stories there would be books [in which] the characters looked and sounded like she did—characters that were Black girls. And after that…I just wrote a story that was about friendship and…growing up….”

The Disappearance of the Black Muslim Author by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “But what if we as Black Muslim writers don’t want to write as if we aren’t Muslim? And what if we want to write authentic Muslim stories that don’t effectively erase our Blackness?…I set out to write for…specifically a Black and Muslim child’s gaze because so few writers write for them.”

Puffin Canada

Kicking Back With Kick-butt and David A. Robertson! from kickbuttkidlit. Peek:“[M]y books have been about Indigenous people—their histories, communities, cultures, contemporary struggles, resiliencies, strengths, and more. I chose to write about Indigenous people because I didn’t have books when I was a kid, certainly not like kids have now….A focus I’ve had…is to take classic literature and reimagine it through an Indigenous lens.”

Writing Craft

Q&A With Justin A. Reynolds, Early Departures by Alaina Leary from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “I’m 100 percent pantser. I can’t know the ins and outs of a story ahead of writing it because then it feels like what’s the point of punching it onto a screen, it’s already finished. I need to be constantly surprised…that’s the only way I know that the reader will be surprised, too.”

Sing the Truth! With Cozbi A. Cabrera by Laura Pegram from Kweli Journal. Peek: “Making art has been like standing at the door knocking. Rarely does the door open immediately. I have to woo it open, by consistently showing up, declaring my intentions. When the door opens a crack, I have to apply and ply all of my powers to the discipline of capturing what shows up.”

HMH Books for Young Readers

Q&A: Rena Barron, Author of “Maya and the Rising Dark” by Anuska G from The Nerd Daily. Peek: “I’ve read books, watched YouTube conversations, listened to music, talked to people. Yet, none of my research could ever scratch the surface of truly understanding traditions that I am only beginning to learn about as an adult….[So] I chose to make up a new mythology that could…fit into the larger narrative.”

Edi Campbell—Author Interview: Kim Johnson by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: “When I first began querying I was frustrated with publishing and with finding an agent. I am so glad I didn’t give up because the time made me a better writer as I not only wrote more novels, but practiced writing queries, pitches, loglines, and the dreaded synopsis.”

The Shelf Care Interview: Sabaa Tahir, Nicole Andelfinger, and Sonia Liao by Ronny Khuri from The Booklist Reader. Peek: [Sonia Liao:] “[W]hen I first start drawing, I always make sure to draw a lot of sketches, basically trying to cast a wide net before sending it off and hoping at least one of them will look somewhat like people want and then, after we pinpoint that, working from there.”


Exit Interview With Michael Eisenberg by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “There have been many significant changes…in children’s publishing…Children’s divisions began to receive the respect and attention they deserved after being profitable for years and underwriting many adult divisions. There was a huge increase in the number of children’s books being published, incredible growth in young adult publishing, and a proliferation of independent children’s bookstores….”


Feiwel & Friends

The Futura is Now: Why Cover Design Looks the Way It Does by Kelly Jensen from Book Riot. Peek: “The cover of a book is frequently the first marketing tool a reader sees…Fonts become central to YA cover design…[T]here has been more and more of a push from sales & marketing teams to make sure that a book cover…look[s] good and readable when viewed at thumbnail on [online] sites….”

Catching Up With Lindsay LackeyA Debut Author’s First Year from Kid Lit Craft. Peek: “The thing about marketing yourself is that it takes a lot of time and energy, so my advice is only do what you actually enjoy doing. I enjoy planning programs and speaking to kids…I choose to put my energy into the promotional efforts that bring me satisfaction… That’s the only way to survive!”


How Libraries Are Writing a New Chapter by Melanie D.G. Kaplan from National Geographic. Peek: “Americans’ love affair with libraries has only grown during the pandemic…[W]eekly e-book lending across the United States has increased nearly 50 percent since March 9, even as some libraries remain physically closed….Here’s a roundup of how libraries and other bookish organizations are helping both locals and travelers read…this fall.”

IMLS-Funded Reading Nation Waterfall Project to Bring Curated Little Free Libraries to Native American Children by Kelli Brooks from Library Journal. Peek: “Could librarian-curated Little Free Libraries be the next great outreach tool to help improve youth reading scores and strengthen community connections to libraries?…[UNC]–Greensboro Library and Information Science Associate Professor Anthony Chow…plans to use the book exchange outposts to give away 70,000 books over the next three years to Native American children and families….”


Orchard Books

Kids’ Books at the Forefront of Combined Regional Bookselling Conference by Alex Green and Ed Nawotka from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “Billed as ‘New Voices New Rooms,’ the massive, combined regional fall conference of the New Atlantic Booksellers Association and Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance kicked off on Sept. 21 with an emphasis on children’s books…Author Tami Charles…said…‘Now more than ever…we need to remind our children of all the ways in which they matter.’”

Angie Thomas and Justin Reynolds on Ending Black Male Stereotypes by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “The New England Independent Booksellers Association kicked off its virtual fall conference…with a keynote featuring two YA authors, Angie Thomas…and Justin A. Reynolds…[T]he two authors are committed to literary representations of Black males that defy common stereotypes in order to empower young readers confronting a society seemingly intent upon reinforcing negative stereotypes.”

Education/Other Resources/Events

Inkyard Press

Twelve Authors on YouTube With Writing & Publishing Tips by Leila Hirschfeld from BookBub. Peek: “If you’re on the lookout for free resources on writing and publishing, YouTube has a treasure trove of helpful advice from successful, experienced authors. Many of them have generously shared craft tips, insights on the publishing process, and advice on book marketing.” For example, Francina Simone shares How to Write Backstory.

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival will take place virtually for the entire month of October. Twenty-seven authors and illustrators will participate in the festival, which will feature weekly themes (e.g., science fiction, fantasy, hip hop) and books for all age levels. Registration is free.

The Luxe Library is offering a free Book Writing Class for Kids from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 3, led by child authors and illustrators, Avery Burrell and Avion Burrell, along with their mother—author, educator, and Luxe Library co-founder, Delicia B. Davis.

School Library Journal Day of Dialog. This free virtual event, to be held Oct. 15, offers a “daylong program of author panels, in-depth conversations, and keynote talks…Attendees will hear about the latest and most exciting forthcoming titles for children, tweens, and teens, from picture books and nonfiction to graphic novels and YA, and engage in Q&A sessions with authors and illustrators.” Registration is open to librarians and educators.

Authors Saadia Faruqi and Gayatri Sethi present the first Desi Kidlit Summit on Oct. 11 and Oct. 18. This is a unique online event bringing together children’s authors and creatives from the South Asian diaspora to talk about the joys and challenges of the publishing industry. See registration details.

Scholarships & Grants

Book Industry Charitable (BINC) Foundation Emergency Financial Assistance. Peek: “BINC helps booksellers and comic retailers with unforeseen emergency financial needs. The Foundation assesses each request to determine how best to provide relief to the bookseller. If approved, grants are paid to third-party vendors.”

Chronicle Books


Congratulations to the 2019 Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards winners, finalists, and Discovery Prize winners (for books published in 2019). The Middle Grade/Young Adult winner is Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt (Chronicle Books, 2019), and the Picture Book winner is Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen by Beth Mills (Carolrhoda Books, 2019).

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 BC and Yukon Book Prizes, which includes the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize and the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize. And a special shout out to Julie Flett and Joy Kogawa for receiving the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

Congratulations to the 2020 CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award Winners. Peek: “These awards are given annually to professionals or organizations in the children’s publishing industry who have made a significant impact on publishing diverse titles, their promotion, diversity in hiring and mentoring, plus efforts that create public awareness about the importance of diverse voices.”

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally – Cynthia

Small wonders! A peek at flowers spied while walking Gnocchi, the Chihuahua.

This has been a week of new beginnings. I’m able to write new scenes again, after about six months of scrambling to adjust everything and focusing on projects in progress. My priorities are getting a draft down of my Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, 2018, 2020) companion novel and worldbuilding on an ambitious middle grade novel. Also, I’m pleased to report that Kekla Magoon and I finished the script for the second book in the Blue Stars series. I hope Molly Murakami has fun illustrating it. Her amazing art for book 1 absolutely blew us away.

Beyond that, I’m newly on Pinterest and looking forward to developing a presence on that platform. My one virtual foray into the outside world was a visit to Anne Nesbit‘s class at the University of California, Berkeley. It was a question-and-answer session about Hearts Unbroken, Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000)(Heardrum, 2021) and writing and publishing more globally.

On a day-to-day level, I watched “Ratched,” which was extremely intense, beautifully filmed and acted, and cooked both mac-and-cheese (without a box) and teriyaki chicken for the first time, though not for the same meal.

More Personally – Gayleen

Inspiration and introspection have taken center stage for me recently while participating in Bethany Hegedus‘ Courage to Create program through The Writing Barn. I’ve reconnected with fellow creatives, gained insight on what drives my writing and learned more about publishing—and this is just the first month!